A post from my ancient Marvel blog, part of a series in which I answered readers’ questions about the post-One More Day AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.
It’s day five, and we’re not anywhere near finished with all of the many assorted Spider-Man questions that have come down the pike, let alone into dealing with some of the issues raised in the responses (which is looking more and more like a pipe dream the further I get into this, and the more bored we all become with covering the same old ground again and again.) But most of today’s questions are relatively straightforward:
> Has the response to this made you reconsider any ideas you
were considering for other characters? >
Gay Rawhide Kid. Oops, too late…
>Is the angry response by half the fans better than a bored shrug by all the fans?
Posted by izzatrix on 2008-10-08 13:45:57>
Yes, absolutely. It’s not quite science, but every time the fans get really upset about a storyline, we see an upturn in sales. Whether that’s because there are more fans who are excited about it, or just people slowing down to see the car crash is debatable, but the plain fact remains that the most successful things we’ve produced over the last decade have all been railed against by upset fans. Silence is deadly. Silence kills books.
>Does Peter remember that he revealed his identity to the world? If so, how come he doesn’t wonder why the whole world forgot? If not, then that seems to be a lot more changes than just undoing “I do.”
Posted by superscribe on 2008-10-08 14:45:47>
You’re making a couple of understandable leaps in logic here based on what little we’ve shown so far. But as with the earlier Harry Osborn example, this is actually quite simple, and will be very easy to understand once we get to telling the story of specifically how this happened. But for now, all you really need to understand is that Spidey did unmask to the world, and then, during that gap of time between the end of “One More Day” and the beginning of our run, something occurred to erase this knowledge from the minds of everybody on Earth (with the exception of Peter himself.) Peter makes passing reference to this during “New Ways To Die” when he first encounters a Norman Osborn who doesn’t know he’s Spider-Man and thinks to himself something along the lines of, “That thing we did is working! He no longer has any idea who I am!”
So Peter knows exactly what transpired to eliminate knowledge of his identity, and that this action wasn’t caused by Mephisto but by something else. (Which makes perfect sense when you think about it, in that, in a world in which Peter was never married, there wouldn’t have been a deal with Mephisto in the first place—there would have been nothing to bargain for.) And that puts us right back to where we started: one thing has changed, and that is the marriage not happening. I realize this can be tough to grapple with given that we haven’t actually covered a lot of this ground in print yet, but that was specifically because we all felt that spending the first year doing stories about the fallout from “One More Day” would have been like pulling teeth for everybody involved, fans and creators alike. But the story if the identity erasure is planned, and you should see it in 2009.
>Is there an official Marvel edict that states that the Clone Saga or anything from that storyliine must never be mentioned again? I don’t actually recall a time when Pete or MJ mentioned Ben or the death of their daughter….except to make jokes about it. “Hey I’ve got clones…..great”
Posted by Miles_Warren on 2008-10-08 15:06:32>
Wow, “official edict” sounds incredibly, well, official. I don’t know that we have too many “official edicts” about anything. But no, there’s no official edict about mentioning events from the Clone Saga. I do think, however, that it would be a mistake to be constantly mentioning the miscarried daughter, which goes back to the problem I discussed yesterday: if a married Spider-Man is old, a married Spider-Man with a child is ancient. So, like the marriage of the Human Torch, this is an area probably best left untouched and unexplored. That baby was the result of a previous attempt to undo the marriage, and was an enormous difficulty for the creative and editorial teams involved once the decision had been made not to go down that road. Having put all that behind us, it’s probably better all around for it to stay behind us, in the past—not contradicted, but not constantly reinforced either.
>How much of an uproar from fans is necessary to cause a change in the direction of a character?
My only reference for such a change would be the death of Jason Todd. I’m not sure how much actual displeasure there was or how DC editorial became aware of it, I’m sure that would be an interesting story. >
I don’t know all of the ins and outs of what DC editorial was experiencing, but from my vantage point, there was absolutely no outcry in favor of bringing Jason Todd back to life. That was just an idea that Jeph Loeb had while working on BATMAN with Jim Lee. And during that run, it was an idea he wasn’t permitted to execute, having to have it turn out to be Clayface in disguise. However, as the editorial hierarchy over there changed, the new guys were more interested in bringing Jason back (and probably prompted by whatever the reaction was to the story that Jeph and Jim did, and looking to capitalize on that.) but before that, nobody was talking much about Jason Todd.
And the only thing guaranteed to change the direction of a series is really flagging sales. Even then, though, you’re not guaranteed to get the change you want, since it’s only “a” change that will be prompted rather than a specific change. As I mentioned earlier, outcry is actually healthy for a title—when people are talking about you comic, chances are that more people are checking it out. The other thing that’ll change a series is a change of creative team, since each creator has a different vision of the character(s) and different stories that they want to tell. So if we swept the board clean and got different writers on AMAZING, it would go in a somewhat different direction—but again, not necessarily in a direction that you would absolutely like. It’s all a bit of a crapshoot.
For example, if the Spidey books had remained under Axel Alonso’s oversight, they would be different than they are right now. I can’t speak authoritatively for what he might have done or who he might have hired, but I’m relatively certain that AMAZING wouldn’t be coming out three times a month. That was an idea that had been floated by Joe Q several months earlier and rejected at that time for assorted reasons that I quickly latched back onto when the books were handed over to me. The other thing I know would have been different is that, had AMAZING remained with Axel, Gwen Stacy would in all likelihood be alive again. Gwen’s resurrection was one of the most hotly-debated elements of “One More Day”, and something I argued against from day one. But at the end of the day, if the books were remaining in Axel’s hands, he needed to be able to do whatever he thought was best for them, my involvement was only advisory. When the titles switched hands and came over to me, I reopened discussions about bringing Gwen back, even thought the decision had previously been made, because my point of view and preferences aren’t the same as Axel’s would have been. That’s not to say that I’m right and he’s wrong—he and his team may very well have been able to get some outstanding stories out of Gwen’s return, in the same way that Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting made the return of Bucky a success. But I felt that bringing Gwen back was a bridge too far, Steve Wacker and the creators we were bringing onto the Spidey books agreed, and the decision was overturned.
>When is the decision made that a reboot is necessary and how do editors/writers etc. come to that conclusion?
Posted by CaptainMarvel221 on 2008-10-08 15:21:27>
I’m really not trying to be snarky with this next comment, just truthful: this is a question probably better asked to a DC editor, since the DC Universe seems to reboot itself regularly every ten years or so. Undoing the Spidey marriage is probably the closest we’ve ever come at Marvel, and even within that we’ve taken great pains to change or overturn at little as possible (despite the fact that it’s become another political catch-phrase that “Twenty Years of Spidey Continuity is Goooooone!”) But doing what we did was a necessary evil in service to the greater good when it came to repairing Spider-Man. On smaller levels, things have been changed or reversed throughout the years—everything from the Human Torch’s marriage to Colossus’ death. And in each case, there’s some level of discussion about it, but generally the ones that make sense are pretty obvious. It’s inevitable that over 45 years of publishing, mistakes are going to be made, and blind alleys are going to be reached.
>1) Can the Prowler please come through an arc SOON? Hobie Brown works so well with Peter Parker I would just love to see it done by any of the brain trust. Especially with JRjr doing the art. I don’t think JRJR has ever drawn the Prowler and he was very influential in JRsr’s creation of the character. >
Now that you mention it, I’d love to see JRJR draw the Prowler as well. Dan Slott’s had a great idea for a Prowler story floating around ever since the first Braintrust meeting, we just haven’t had the proper place to slot it into the book. But maybe at some point before too long…
>2) Are you working on getting Dan Jurgens to write and draw an arc or Family story? His previous run was way too short and I’d like to see him come back and work on the ‘real’ Peter Parker.
Posted by Suiter on 2008-10-08 15:36:43>
I believe Dan is still exclusive to DC at this point, so it’s not in the cards until and unless that changes. On the upside, he is getting to work on his old creation Booster Gold.
>Is there any consideration given to the upset fans during your meetings? >
I think there’s been nothing but consideration given to the upset fans, but I suspect those irate fans would feel differently. We don’t want our readers to be angry, we want them to be enthralled by the stories we’re telling. But there’s short term and long term, and sitting in these chairs, doing these jobs, we sometimes have to consider the long term over the short term, no matter how upset some people are going to become. I asked yesterday what people thought we could do to address fan ire outside of the one thing we’re clearly not going to do, which is reverse the storyline, and the only answer I saw as of this morning amounted to, “Duh, reverse the storyline, jerkface!” There’s nothing I can do with that. That person is going to be angry about this no matter what, and it’s futile to try to address his problems, since there’s only one outcome that will satisfy him.
And if we did exactly what he wants and reverse this storyline, we’d then hear from all of the angry readers who were enjoying the present Spidey books and were angry that we’d changed them back. That’s crystal-clear from the number of times readers have asked about the effect of this storyline on the events of “The Other.” After it came out, it seemed like nobody in creation liked “The Other” or the changes it wrought—but as soon as it seemed like those changes were being undone, all of the up-till-then-silent fans who did like what had happened and were interested in seeing how those elements developed suddenly came out of the woodwork to complain. Truly, there is no pleasing everybody.
> Why should I get interested in other Marvel characters when a simple deal with Mephisto can re-write any development’s made in their books? Or do the other Marvel characters have too much moral fibre to make the deal with the devil that Peter did.
Posted by randin on 2008-10-08 17:17:49>
Okay, this is a real magician’s-secret-pull-the-curtain-way-back sort of question, but you asked it and I’m going to answer it.
The Marvel Universe is fiction. Therefore, anything can happen at any time if the people in charge of creating that fiction so will it.
This isn’t something that anybody, creators, editors or fans, really wants to dwell on too much. But it’s absolutely true. If tomorrow, Marvel’s Board of Directors determined that Spider-Man should be a woman, a rapist, a two-headed alien from Mars or a pirate, then that is what would happen.
Now, there’s a basic compact between the readership and the editors in serial fiction of the sort that we do that amounts to, “The stories we’re telling you are valid. They exist and have consequences.” But that’s not such an absolute as we make it out to be. Because at the end of the day, this is a business as well as entertainment, and sometimes the two collide in ways that are artificial.
Bill Jemas used to talk about this phenomenon every once in a while, that the belief in our characters and this fictitious universe that had been created was so strong and so real to a portion of the readership that while they consciously understood that it’s all make-believe, on an emotional level it was related to as a real place with real history and real rules. “We’re not revealing the origin of Wolverine,” said Bill, “we’re making it up. Until we do that, there is no origin of Wolverine.” Consequently, during Bill’s regime, we did a whole slew of projects that didn’t jibe perfectly (or at all) with the previously-established continuity. And some of those turned out to be among the most popular things we’ve ever done.
There is nothing that’s done in a comic book that cannot be reversed, even if that reversal is nonsensical. The only hedge against it is a total collapse of your sales, and therefore your finances. You don’t need Mephisto to do this, he’s just a tool of the story.
Every generation of readers runs into this at some point. For my generation, it was probably the return of Jean Grey that put an exclamation point on this idea. The Death of Phoenix storyline was an acknowledged instant classic, released during a period when the deaths of major characters were seldom if ever later overturned. And yet, not five years later, Jean Grey was back from the grave to help sell X-FACTOR.
But you know what? The Death of Phoenix is still an effective story, and when I read it again I don’t have to think about X-Factor or Jean coming back or any of that stuff. The work itself isn’t lessened by this, except within the larger context. There are certainly readers who can’t reconcile this, and I understand where they’re coming from. (We have a whole team of guys who work on our Marvel Handbooks who wrestle with this stuff all the time, trying to make pieces fit together that really don’t and can’t fit.) But all of this stuff is ephemeral. (The same thing is true of any other work of fiction. I have no idea what’s going to happen in J.J. Abrams’ new STAR TREK film, but I can guess that it’s going to overturn or rewrite or reinterpret material from the previous films and television shows. And it’s either going to be a good movie or a bad movie, regardless.)
You should care because the stories make you care. But this is fiction, not history, and all of it is mutable. That means that Elektra can live again, that Cyclops can cheat on his wife with his old enemy the White Queen, and that Iron Man can reveal his identity to the world, erase that knowledge, then reveal it again. But as long as the stories are compelling an affecting, then the experience is worthwhile.
The universe is there to serve the stories, the stories aren’t there to serve the universe.